January 08, 2012

Photo Essay: Paramount Ranch & Raceway (Updated for 2018)

[Update 11/9/18 2:51 PM PT: Park officials have announced that Paramount Ranch's "Western Town" has been destroyed by the Woolsey Fire. More info will be posted here as it becomes available. Photos from photojournalist John Screiber on Twitter here.]

I'd had Paramount Ranch on my list of places to visit in LA for a while, but I'd been putting off my visit.

Sure, I was interested in the Western Town that still stood as a living movie set for a variety of westerns...

...but what else was there?

For me, given how much LA has to offer for exploring, it just wasn't enough that Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman had been shot there.

By the time Westworld had been shot there, I hadn't watched much television in years.

And I'd seen other "western" towns before.

And then I discovered another part of Paramount Ranch's history...

...a part that ended up intriguing me the most.

It wasn't the old train station...

...or any of the ramshackle structures that dated back to the 1940s.

It was the decommissioned raceway.

The famed race track was only open for a few years.

And it was shut down in the late 1950s after fatalities on the figure-8 track—with its hairpin turns and dangerous conditions—became too numerous.

Part of the historic track's original straightaway has been repaved and serves as an access road to the national park site...

...but besides that, there's a surprising amount of asphalt that remains...

...though parts of it are clearly crumbling...

...with weeds and trees sprouting through.

As you follow the original path on foot...

...since no motorized vehicles are currently allowed... can imagine the adrenaline rush of racing those curves in a car...

...and you can almost hear the revving of phantom racecar engines...

...till you realize it's just the motorcycles roaring down the highway above.

In one section...

...far from any traffic of any sort...

...the tarmac is barely interrupted by nature or weathering...

...and you can still spot the original double yellow line painted down the middle.

Related posts:
M*A*S*H at Malibu Creek State Park
Photo Essay: Franklin Canyon
Off to the Races: Part One
Off to the Races: Part Two

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed your article on Paramount Ranch. My Dad was a professional photographer back then and he used to take pictures at those races. I've considered going there myself, but I haven't made it there yet. After seeing your article, I will have to make a point of it to go next time I'm in LA.

    That's a great clip from Devil's Hairpin. I've seen my Dad's photos a lot, but it is amazing to see Paramount Ranch in action as a racetrack.

    Here are some of my Dad's photos from Paramount Ranch races in 1956 -

    I'll definitely share a link to your site with my Dad. Just glancing through your site, you've really got a lot of historic LA that I'm interested in - Hughes Aircraft Campus (my parents worked there), Greystone Mansion (a personal favorite), LA River - nice job!

    Thanks for the virtual trip to Paramount Ranch.